A colleague of mine once interjected in a conversation about the dangers of technology with an anecdote about a truly terrifying example of human/technological hybridization. Apparently, he’d seen a child of no more than six years of age trying to swipe through and zoom in on a print magazine. While this is pretty humorous to picture, it also proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that touchscreen technology, as well as other advances in computing, have augmented the robot/human (cyborg) ratio we’ve been balancing by some orders of magnitude.
As every human with a brain knows, the Internet is a scary and powerful thing. It has incredible value, this much is true, but the addiction much of us share has altered our species. Gizmodo posted a video about the concept of information technology becoming extensions of our biomass, saying that any human with a time travel device could convince any ancient or historic folk that we were part robot (the time machine would give it away, but let’s let that one go). The learned motions that control iPads, iPhones, and other touchscreen devices are in turn controlling us, reworking the communicate with external stimuli.
That kid who’s trying to make the print magazine act like an iPad is one of many like cyborgs who will develop problems because of seemingly comfortable information technology. Scientific American wrote in 2012 that touchscreens were not quite the wave of the future, as they had health problems attached, including something called gorilla arm (just stare at someone using a touchscreen device and tell me they don’t look weirdly ape like), which messes with one’s muscles. Touchscreen things make for bad posture and weird body positions, so their proliferation is not wonderful for health. That and the whole dependence on a constant data stream…
Not only are we attached to computing but robotic technology and computers are attached to us. As fast as our brains are syncing up with technology, robot limbs and chips are being installed onto our biological mainframe. Semiotically, we are definitely part machine (our individual consciousness has fused with a completely digital mega consciousness), but now there are robotic attachments for folks who have lost the use of their legs, or have problems conventional medicine can’t fix. Jason Silva, the filmmaker behind the kinda recent Robocop remake, urged Huffington Post readers to see that cyborg technology is here and now, not in some sci-fi future. Medical robot usage is frightening too, but at least helps people as opposed to addicts us to things on a screen.
Anyone who’s studied this crazy phenomenon, the age of us becoming cyborgs, has no doubt crossed paths with professor Donna Haraway, the writer of The Cyborg Manifesto and the harbinger of cyberfeminism. What we find here is that not only are robotics and information technologies altering the kind of stuff we do, they’re changing the very nature of… nature! To simplify as much as possible, we’re in an irreversible spiral of becoming more machine than man (and we’re nowhere near as cool as Darth Vader was). Wired published a great piece on Haraway and the notion that we’re too far gone to ever not be cyborgs. I can imagine an insane progression of humans addling their brains via the usage of tablets and phones to the point where we become so sedentary that robots will be relied upon for locomotion, and then all kinds of health problems ensue, but oh man we have robot arms and legs and brains to save the day! Whether it’s a touchscreen or a cochlear implant, all of this technology is vastly outpacing our own evolution.
This is not to say we need to stop the whole thing and go hide in the woods. I have a serious doubt that killer robots are going to explode us one by one for their pleasure (which we programmed). More than likely, we’ll keep getting more and more antisocial, more disconnected from our world of objects, emotions, and senses, which suggests that the solution is knowing where the line is. If we’re not careful, we may go way beyond the current robot/human balance that’s already teetering on the side of future robot overlords (yeah, we’re actually doomed).